How to Spot the New Face of Twitter Spam

by Angelique on August 6, 2012

A group of robot toysDoes it really matter you’re followed on Twitter by an army of bots? No, but here’s what does matter: the time you might waste thanking them for following you, adding them to lists, and checking them out to see if you want to follow them.

It used to be easy to identify the bots. Giveaways were misspelled names and avatars featuring ladies from the adult entertainment industry. Bot programmers are smarter now. They still like to create fake ladies, but these ones have ordinary personal names and unremarkably pleasant photos. Fortunately, there are some easy tells. Click the graphic to see a larger version:

Annotated illustration of a Twitter spambot account - original graphic by Angelique/AFMarCom

 

If you click on the @handle of a new follower and see a combination of the following, you don’t have to explore further:

1. A name and avatar of a pleasant yet ordinary woman you’ve never seen in a chat. She can be dressed casually or professionally.

2. No contact information of any kind.

3. Nothing but quotes or short, text-only statements.

4. Lots of retweets of sales pitches.

Don’t bother to “get to know” these ladies; they’re bots! If you don’t follow them back, they will disappear in a few days.

Do you have a quick and easy way to spot bots? Let me know in the comments!

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Pavel Konoplenko August 6, 2012 at 7:37 am

Great post! I’ve been noticing the same things myself. The biggest clue for me is when there are a lot of followers and very few Tweets. Because then I can’t figure why they’re being followed until I realize that probably most of the people following are probably fake too.

I feel that once we start figuring everything out, the spammers will find some new thing to fool us. It’s a never-ending game. One day, they’ll make spam-bots so good that it’ll be hard to even distinguish because they won’t be as spammy and they’ll have AI good enough to engage back and make comments. However, once that happens, are they considered spam-bots anymore?

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Casey E. Palmer August 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

It’s funny — I essentially stopped worrying altogether about losing followers since SO MANY of them are bots these days. I prefer to just focus on always providing good content and let the rest take care of itself.

The nature of social media is ever-changing. For the better or worse, who knows!

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Pavel Konoplenko August 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Good point. The ever-changing nature is, like all things, good and bad. Better cracking down by Twitter to remove annoying bots, but better bots who can better understand how “real” people Tweet.

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Angelique August 8, 2012 at 11:09 am

Casey — Why has Disqus stopped notifying me of new comments? Wordpress notifies me of spammy links, but Disqus is silent about the things I WANT to know! Disqus is also now calling me a “mod.” I guess that’s true, but kinda weird.

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Casey E. Palmer August 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm

At least you’re GETTING comments! My poor site is being neglected by my readers :( But it’s okay — this isn’t a Casey Palmer Pity Party — it’s time to help Angel figure this out ;)

Right, so: In your Wordpress Dashboard, go to:

Comments > Disqus

On the right-hand side you should see a link to:

Email notifications

Click that. Is it enabled?

I saw this comment because I’m still getting email notifications.

Anyhoo, let me know.

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Angelique August 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Well that was interesting. Everything was properly checked EXCEPT for the box next to AFMarCom (as a website for which I want to receive notifications.) I have no idea how that became unchecked.

So why don’t I know about your posts? Don’t you pitch them on Twitter?

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Casey E. Palmer August 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Glad I could be of help :) I do post them on Twitter, but I only tend to post the links once unless I’m especially proud of the content. I think @PavelNovel:disqus and I identify with this — promote the hell out of something if you’ve done an amazing job; if it’s mediocre, let it live its life, but don’t try to beat a dead horse.

With that said, it’s easiest (at the moment) to keep track of my blog posts by subscribing to the blog itself (there’s a box for emails on the right-hand side) — until I get all of these projects sorted out, I can’t commit to a regular schedule for awesome content.

But that too shall come :)

Angelique August 8, 2012 at 11:08 am

Pavel — Your comment showed up! Too bad Disqus didn’t tell me about it! :( I guess it’s “back to the future” about the bots, because back in the days of IRC, some people programmed bots to moderate chat rooms that were so good newbies would talk to them for weeks without realizing they were bots. Of course, those bots weren’t spamming anybody, which is why they got away with it.

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